With the UFC light heavyweight title fight for UFC 187 now between Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson, the odd man out is Ryan Bader. Bader was booked to fight Cormier at UFC Fight Night 68 in New Orleans on June 6, but when Jon Jones was suspended indefinitely and stripped of the belt for a felony hit-and-run in New Mexico, he found himself without a fight.
Now that Cormier has been chosen to stand in for Jones against Johnson for the 205-pound title, Bader is training for an invisible foe.
"This whole past week I’ve been training hard," Bader told Ariel Helwani during an appearance on Monday’s MMA Hour. "I’m continuing to do what I was. I’m in the middle of camp right now. I was to fight Daniel Cormier, and now I have no clue. So this whole I’ve just been doing the same stuff, but not knowing what kind of opponent I’m training for, or if I’m training for an opponent, and who. Like I said earlier, do we fight just to get a paycheck and move on? Or, ultimately, do we want to be where DC is right now and fighting for that title. So we want the next shot."
Bader is riding a four-fight winning streak, which stems back to a 2013 decision against Anthony Perosh. In his last outing he was able to score a split decision victory over Phil Davis in Stockholm, Sweden. All four of his victories have come via decision.
His fight with Cormier was a main event for the UFC’s return to New Orleans, and was thought to have at least loose title connotations. Bader said on Monday that he hopes that the shift in the division might mean that he can wait out the winner of the Johnson-Cormier fight.
Which was in itself a consolation prize. Bader said that when he heard the whisperings that Jones might be out of the fight that his camp began lobbying for the May 23 fight with Johnson.
"You know, my manager and all that were calling [UFC president] Dana [White] and all that kind of stuff, and we definitely wanted that fight," he said. "I heard rumors early Sunday morning, and the first thing that popped in my mind was, I need to jump in there and fight Anthony Johnson. Se we were pushing for that and pushing for that."
In the end the UFC went with Cormier, who lost to Jones at UFC 182 on Jan. 3 via unanimous decision. Bader said he understood why the decision was made, but still felt he should have been given the nod to fight for the belt.
"I get that the business decision as far as putting Daniel Cormier in," he said. "He just fought Jon Jones. He has the platform to sell the fight with all the stuff on FOX, and all that. The next best thing for us is to get that winner. Like I said, a four-fight win streak right now and nobody else is qualified for that title shot. They’ve all had their chances, and they’ve all lost. Pretty much all of them are coming off of losing streaks. I get that decision to put DC in, but we should be next.
If the UFC opts not to have Bader wait, the fight that seeming made some sense was a rematch with Glover Teixeira. Bader’s last loss came against Teixeira at UFC Fight Night 28 in Brazil, a fight he was controlling up until the moment he got caught. Bader ended up losing via first-round TKO.
Still, since that time Bader has peeled off four wins in a row while Teixeira is currently riding a two-fight losing streak. Though he said the UFC has yet to formally offer him that fight he does have some reservations about taking it if it means a step backwards.
"It all depends," he said. "We’re interested in fighting for that title. Glover’s on a two fight losing streak and, like I said, he just lost to Phil Davis, and what the 205-pound division is in need of is contenders. If you’re going to knock one of us off…I plan on going out there and beating him if I’m fighting Glover, then he’s on a three-fight [losing] streak. So what happens with him down the road? I know he’s one of the top guys. And then you have [Alexander] Gustafsson just had a KO loss to maybe eventual champion and we were supposed to fight him…you know our hat was in there for that Sweden card. We offered to fight him in the main event, and AJ got that fight.
"We’ve always taken every single fight that was offered. We step up and fight the top names that nobody wants to fight. So if I hear people saying, ‘oh, you’re ducking this or ducking that,’ no I haven’t ducked anybody. I’ve had three fights that were supposed to be with the top three guys and for whatever reason, whether it was them or the UFC, they got pulled. We’ll see what happens."
Still, Bader said the goal is to fight for a title, not to just take fights. If he has his druthers he will just wait a few weeks to see what happens at UFC 187.
"I’m in this sport to win a championship," he said. "And so, if we can go to the UFC, and talk to Joe Silva or Dana and say hey, we get the winner, then I’m going to fight the winner of AJ and DC. That’s a best-case scenario. We’ll see in the next couple of days what else, what else happens…if Glover’s still on the table or not."
In the meantime, Bader said he'll stay busy training for a fight in the event something comes up.
"I don't want to get a call if something makes sense and then I was ten pounds heavier and out of shape and not preparing right," he said. "And so I'm doing the same stuff I was doing. Nothing's changed. We're just waiting for that phone call, and we hope to know today, tomorrow, soon. That's kind of where we're at. We're in this No Man's Land right now and trying to figure it out."